Joey Barton and his ‘incredibly special’ goal boost Burnley past Southampton
Burnley 1-0 Southampton
Burnley: Barton (78’)
Man of the Match: Virgil van Dijk (Southampton)
Controversy can seem Joey Barton’s constant companion, but Burnley savour thoughts of his quality.
Sometimes outsize personalities have a propensity to make things happen and Barton enlivened what had been a tedious afternoon at Turf Moor. A catalyst marked his first Premier League game for 601 days with a winner inside five minutes.
“To do that was incredibly special,” said Barton. “It means a lot. It wasn’t the cleanest strike I have ever hit in my life.”
But it may rank among the cleverest, Barton placing his teammate Jeff Hendrick on the end of the wall to block Fraser Forster’s vision and relying on the goalkeeper guessing wrong as he steered the shot into the bottom corner.
“A strange free kick,” complained Southampton manager Claude Puel. But it had a certain inevitability.
“You can’t make it up,” said Burnley manager Sean Dyche. “A sublime finish.”
Dyche brought Barton on after 73 minutes, joking that a pillar of his promotion-winning side “was confused by being sub. He said. ‘Do I take my boots out with me, wear a T-shirt, wear a warm-up top or what?’ I said, ‘Oi, you get on with it.’”
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Barton duly got on with it, just as Burnley did with the task of grinding out points at Turf Moor. A replacement on Saturday may only have a bit-part role in a survival battle they are winning.
Barton is still subject to an FA misconduct charge for allegedly gambling on 1260 matches over a decade. He began his second stint at Burnley with a ban for betting on other games during his brief and ill-fated spell with Rangers. He had been suspended by the Scottish club for a training-ground altercation with teammate Andy Halliday. He then had his contract cancelled.
If some of Barton’s previous employers might not welcome him back, Burnley did.
“I’ve had no question marks about him before and I didn’t see why I would again,” Dyche explained. “There’s an assuredness from many years of playing top-flight football.”
Burnley can perhaps gear up for two in a row, something they have not enjoyed since the 1970s. Only Chelsea and Tottenham boast better records on their own grounds than Dyche’s team who, improbably, have collected 96.15 per cent of their points at Turf Moor.
“If they are lucky like today they can continue to win,” said an ungracious Puel. But Burnley’s fourth successive league win at home was Southampton’s fourth consecutive top-flight defeat.
“It is difficult to accept,” said Puel. Glory may beckon for his side, who are 90 minutes away from the EFL Cup final. They produced only mediocrity Saturday and, if it seemed enough to procure a point, it was telling they only really threatened when they trailed.
Tom Heaton had only needed to save from James Ward-Prowse at 0-0. He was busier when Burnley led, thwarting Ryan Bertrand, Virgil van Dijk and, in especially impressive fashion, the former Burnley forward Jay Rodriguez and his fellow replacement Josh Sims. “The two saves at the end are tremendous,” added Dyche.
But they were exceptions in a quiet afternoon. Improbably, Puel suggested Southampton had replicated their performance from Wednesday’s win over Liverpool. They did not. Rather they reproduced some of their more typical sterile displays.
An inability to find the net, Puel said, is “a big frustration”, but Southampton are now the division’s second-lowest scorers. Their impotence cannot be attributed just to the summer sales of Graziano Pelle and Sadio Mane or the shoulder injury sustained by Charlie Austin. They only tend to attack with three players, their negativity impeding their forwards, and they lack the confidence that brims through a Burnley team who are now in the top 10.
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